Halévy La Reine de Chypre
Véronique Gens, Cyrille Dubois, Étienne Dupuy, Eric Huchet, Christophorus Stamboglis, Artavazd Sargsyan, Tomislav Lavoie; Flemish Radio Choir; Chamber Orchestra of Paris/Hervé Niquet
Ediciones Singulares ES 1032 154:46 mins (2 discs)
As usual from this source, no trouble or expense has been spared on this project emanating from the Palazetto Bru Zane in Venice. The substantial booklet in hard covers contains everything one might want to know about the opera, including an excellent English translation of the libretto by Sue Rose. The performance, likewise, does its utmost to rehabilitate this work, premiered at the Paris Opéra in 1841 but receiving its last performance there in 1878. Véronique Gens’s warm voice and intelligent pacing lend lustre to the only female role and the male singers, too, are generally easy on the ear: only Cyrille Dubois in the part of Gérard becomes reedy when singing loud above the stave, but his soft singing is exquisite.
All that said, we then have to come to the work itself. Despite puffs from Berlioz and Wagner (with what motives, I know not), it really is no more than mediocre – and I suspect that the broken-backed libretto has much to do with it. I forgive the setting of the last three acts in ‘the port of Nicosia’ (shades of Shakespeare’s ‘sea coast of Bohemia’), but am less indulgent over a plot that matches the implausible with the entirely unexplained. The music in general is not ugly but not persuasive either, despite Mme Gens. The love duet in Act IV does touch briefly on true feeling, but otherwise this is a composer going through the motions, many of them confined to banal tonic/dominant harmonies, duly seasoned with excitable diminished sevenths.